Making Scenarios More Worthwhile: Orienting to Design Story Work

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Increased complexity in contemporary design work has led designers to place greater dependence on the use of story and narrative. Though many consider story and narrative a fundamental part of design, use continues to present challenges and efficacy is poorly understood. With regards to use, challenges stem from a lack of support in directing strategic conversations towards getting the right stories and to getting stories right. With regards to efficacy, poor understanding stems from a lack of research and a corresponding lack of unifying theory.

Scenario research represents the largest body of knowledge on the use and efficacy of story and narrative in design. Yet, scenarios are characteristically narrow in scope and their descriptions typically thin. Scenario research is in decline, and what theory exists is neither extensive nor extensible. Nevertheless, scenarios serve as a starting point for this research, with questions posed about how designers work with story and narrative, and how, in turn, story and narrative work for designers.

To explore these questions epistemological, philosophical and theoretical positions are taken up and these underpin a Research into/through/for Design methodology. A series of self-reflective experiments lead to the creation of novel narrative resources and approaches, which empirical studies expose to a range of increasingly challenging settings. Findings from these studies show that narrative resources coupled with resource-based approaches provide targeted support for cognitively challenging aspects of story work. Furthermore, outcomes from a programme of critical analysis provide insights into how story, narrative and narrative resources work for designers.

Contributions to knowledge are made in three areas: first, in the area of design practice in relation to narrative resources and approaches to story work; second, in the area of design theory in relation to realistic approaches to method innovation; and third, in the area of research practice in relation to aids to visual analysis.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • Northumbria University
  • Design
  • Cockton, Gilbert, Supervisor
  • Blythe, Mark, Supervisor
Award date18 Mar 2020
Publication statusPublished - 24 Mar 2020


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